The Buckinghamshire organisation promoting sport and physical activity
PUBLISHED: 10:00 26 October 2015 | UPDATED: 10:00 26 October 2015
It's time to get on the move and take the first steps to a better lifestyle and healthier future. Steve Cohen explains how you cam make that Leap….
Mark Ormerod presents a happy, positive image as the man in charge of the organisation tasked with promoting sport and physical activity in Bucks. But behind the smile there lurks a chilling message – not being active could seriously harm your health and longevity.
“Too many people think that engaging in sport or being physically active is a fun but ultimately unnecessary and optional diversion,” says Mark. “It’s a mistake that could well cost them their lives.”
Not only that, but the Bucks economy is losing millions of pounds due to sedentary lifestyles and the practice of office workers being chained all day to their desks.
If you think he is exaggerating, perhaps this evidence might make you re-evaluate. He says:
• Approximately 13% of all heart disease emergency hospital admissions in Bucks each year could have been prevented if the people involved had participated in regular physical activity.
• There would be a saving of £2.5m a year to local businesses from sickness, absence and healthcare costs if just 50,000 more people in the county achieved the recommended 150 minutes of physical activity per week.
Mark is the Director of Leap, the Sport and Activity Partnership for Bucks & Milton Keynes - a social enterprise which aims to create opportunities and remove barriers to help people benefit from sport and physical activity.
He explains: “Part of Leap’s work is to raise people’s awareness about the importance of being active. We all know that smoking is bad for your health, but most of us don’t give a second thought to sitting at a desk for 10 hours a day or regularly driving journeys which could be done by bike or on foot, even though the consequences could be just as dire.”
All that sitting
It can be easy to underestimate how long most of us spend sitting down too. A typical day can involve sitting in a car or on the train to work, sitting in front of a computer while we work and then sitting on the sofa for TV viewing in the evenings.
Studies have linked excessive sitting with being overweight and obese, type 2 diabetes, some types of cancer, and premature death.
Prolonged sitting is also thought to slow the metabolism, which affects the body’s ability to regulate blood sugar, blood pressure and break down body fat. But it’s not just about losing weight. A European study into obesity, exercise and health outcomes found that more deaths were attributable to physical inactivity than to obesity.
In addition to the health benefits for your internal bodily functions and the reduction of your risk of major illnesses, research shows that being involved in sport and physical activity can also boost self-esteem, mood, sleep quality and energy, as well as reducing your risk of stress, depression, and dementia.
“Exercise really is the miracle cure we’ve always had, but for too long we’ve neglected to take our recommended dose,” says Mark.
Busy, busy, busy...
But with our lives busier than ever how do we manage to fit it all in? The good news is that keeping healthy doesn’t need to mean hours and hours of intense sport; in fact doing a little each day is the best way forward.
Guidance from the Department of Health on how much physical activity people should be doing to keep healthy states: “Adults should aim to be active daily. Over a week, activity should add up to at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity activity in bouts of 10 minutes or more – one way to approach this is to do 30 minutes on at least five days per week.”
The Leap team has come up with a way of breaking their routine. Every afternoon they engage in a ‘Tea At Three’ routine where they leave their desks and stand to chat together in the centre of their offices for a few minutes.
Mark says. “There is an awful culture in workplaces where people feel they need to sit by their computer all day long to justify their pay packet; we actually cover a lot of business as a team once daily whilst we’re on our feet, and without sending tens of emails.”
The weekly mile
Earlier this year, in partnership with the British Heart Foundation, Leap launched the ‘Midday Mile’. The aim is that, at least once a week, office workers should walk, run, cycle or swim a mile. “At an average walking pace this should take no longer than 15 minutes; and with a work colleague this could be a meeting on foot, and a break from the office,” adds Mark.
“The thing about walking is that it is simple, free and one of the easiest ways to get more active, lose weight and become healthier. It’s under-rated as a form of exercise but walking is ideal for people of all ages and fitness levels who want to be more active.”
On the run
Aylesbury resident Monika Yarnell is a busy mum and air hostess, but back on the ground she’s the driving force behind the hugely successful ‘On The Run’ running club.
Monika was a ‘reluctant runner’: “I hated PE at school, especially running, and did everything in my power to get out of it! I wanted to start running, but felt my asthma would hold me back. It certainly didn’t, it totally improved it. I had every excuse to not start, but I eventually bit the bullet and did it. I’ve never looked back in 10 years of running.”
Monika wanted others to share the benefits, so trained as a Run Leader with England Athletics. Alongside her husband, John, she now takes out beginners on short runs in and around Aylesbury.
Fuelled by Monika’s infectious enthusiasm the ‘On The Run’ club now has upwards of 100 members.
“The most rewarding thing about leading is seeing people who thought they never could, actually do it. Their excited and astounded faces when they realise how far they’ve run when they actually believed they would never be able to. They are encouraged by all of us who have been there and know that the first few times are the hardest. So they might start off walking part of the route and just running a little at first, but soon they see the improvement.”
This community spirit has seen friendships build from the running group and it’s not unusual for 40 club members to head out for a curry together – obviously only if they’ve earned it by completing a run or two that week.
Mark Ormerod says: “Monika Yarnell is exactly the type of person we need to energise our communities into getting out and being active.
“She proves you don’t have to love sport, or be an elite athlete, to reap the benefits. The alternative to being more active is to do nothing – and that, as all the evidence shows, could well prove fatal.”
Here are just some of the things Leap organises
• More than 1,500 young athletes take part in the annual Bucks & MK Sainsbury’s School Games, the culmination of a year-long programme of events.
• Leap is working with primary school teachers to support children’s ‘physical literacy’; ensuring they can jump, throw and catch, just like they can do their A, B, C.
• The Satellite Club programme brings after school club sport to the school site, linking students with their community club and enabling them to try sports they wouldn’t usually have the chance to.
• The Workplace challenge encourages employees to get active with their colleagues and the online activity log allows you to challenge work mates and keep a tally of who’s keeping up their activity levels. Great for office banter and improved employee health.
• Leap’s website is a one-stop shop for sport and activity opportunities, see www.leapwithus.org.uk.